Barça look to up the pres­sure

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

BARCELONA’S at­tack­ing qual­ity was demon­strated as they dom­i­nated the short list for the World Player of the Year Award but de­spite the omi­nous task fac­ing op­po­nents Real So­ciedad this week­end, mid­fielder Xabi Pri­eto be­lieves his side can spring an up­set.

The lead­ers had Leo Messi, An­dres Ini­esta and Xavi Her­nan­dez in the three-man list with the win­ner an­nounced next month and it was yet a fur­ther in­di­ca­tion of the strength of the Barça side, who had eight play­ers in the Spain squad that won the World Cup.

They as­serted them­selves on this year’s ti­tle race with a 50 de­struc­tion of Real Madrid in their last home match which put them top of the ta­ble but Real So­ciedad, who are rid­ing high in sixth place, are fo­cus­ing on the way Her­cules trav­elled to the Nou Camp and came away with a vic­tory ear­lier in the sea­son.

“They not only have a great for­ward line but also the best de­fence in the league and this is go­ing to be a very tough game par­tic­u­larly as Barça are fight­ing for the ti­tle,” said Pi­etro who has been in a rich vein of form. “It won’t be a game for us to en­joy but where we will have to work hard and make them suf­fer”.

“We know that they are not un­beat­able and so that also gives us be­lief and con­fi­dence.”

Real Madrid re­sponded to their maul­ing by Barca with a 20 win over Va­len­cia but with the team still smart­ing they will look to take out their frus­tra­tion on bot­tom side Zaragoza.

Real may will have been boosted by the timely for m show by striker Karim Ben­zema who scored a hat-trick against Aux­erre in the Cham­pi­ons League on Wed­nes­day.

The France striker’s best per­for­mance since his € 35 mil­lion trans­fer from Lyon last sum­mer has come with reg­u­lar striker Gon­zalo Higuain out in­jured un­til Jan­uary.

“I know ev­ery­one is talk­ing about me and I an­swered on the field,” Ben­zema said. “It was my best night with Real Madrid. I feel im­por­tant.”

Vil­lar­real are try­ing to re­main in the ti­tle chase but with far more limited re­sources it is an up­hill bat­tle and they are seven points adrift of Barcelona with a match against Getafe.

Vil­lareal de­fender Car­los Marchena said: “We are al­ways look­ing up­wards but ob­vi­ously Barca and Madrid are very strong and for us to com­pete we have to be at our best the whole time.”

Es­panyol, sit­ting pretty in a Cham­pi­ons League po­si­tion, face a big test away to Ath­letic Bil­bao in front of their in­tim­i­dat­ing fans. – Sapa-AFP

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